Government’s ‘windy rhetoric fools nobody’ - McDonald

Sinn Féin ardfheis told Fine Gael and Labour no better than Fianna Fáil for putting ‘friends first’

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has launched a scathing attack on the Government parties, accusing them of failing to stand up for Irish citizens.

She said Fine Gael and Labour were no better than Fianna Fáil. "They put themselves and their friends first."

Speaking as the party's ardfheis opened tonight at the Wexford Opera House, Ms McDonald said the theme of the party's conference "Putting Ireland First" was the challenge for Irish politics and politicians.

“Good governments stand up for their citizens at home and abroad. Our Government is on its knees before its leaves Dublin airport,” she said.

She questioned whether the Government “put it up to the Eurocrats in the same way they put it up to the old, the sick and the vulnerable here at home”.

Hitting out at the Government’s self-commendation for its “reforming zeal”, she said “they’d do well to remember that their windy rhetoric fools nobody”.

She said “the root and branch reform promised by Labour and Fine Gael in the last general election has not been delivered”.

This Government was no different to the previous administration. “Some are still more equal than others. Public sector pay cuts unless you are a government special advisor.

A ban on public sector recruitment was in place except for PR personnel in the Taoiseach’s department.

She said "it's that same sense of entitlement that defined the actions of a small few senior executives and the board of the Central Remedial Clinic. "

Ms McDonald said the Government “doesn’t oppose wrongdoing” and “has to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing, whether it is apologising to Louise O’Keeffe or to the women of the Magdalene Laundries”.

The Dublin Central TD told more than 300 delegates at the opening sessions that "scandal is what marks this Government".

Highlighting health scandals, she said Minister for Health James Reilly influenced where primary health care centres would be built, including his own constituency.

Ms McDonald said the scandal of Minister for Environment Phil Hogan was his claim that he had no knowledge of how Irish water spent €85 million of taxpayers' money.

She described him as the "Bart Simpson of Irish politics, with his constant refrain 'it wasn't me'".

Ms McDonald questioned whether Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter knew equality was part of his job.

She said the Minister, in the run up to the Government's whistleblower legislation, introduced in the Dail this week, "attempted to undermine the work of the Public Accounts Committee. He failed."

Earlier, Ms Mc Donald told reporters there was no reason the transcripts of the committee’s meeting with Garda penalty points malpractice whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, should not be in the public domain.

Ms McDonald and Independent TD Shane Ross have written to the committee seeking that the issue be discussed at its meeting next week, with the likelihood of a vote on the issue, although it is rare for the committee, with a nine to four Government majority, to hold a vote on issues.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader said that when the issue was discussed she believed it had been made clear that if Sgt McCabe required a transcript, it would be provided.

She added: “Ibelieve that in fact that transcript ought to be made public.”